Anyway, since everyone else has already had his or her say, I wanted to put my two cents in and talk about my favorite games of last year. My “best of” lists tend, in general, to be a bit different from most people’s, largely because I tend to play slightly different games. I’m more inclined to pick up a JRPG than a shooter or adventure game when I have the chance, and although 2010 was a year in which I really started to mix that up a bit, my list in particular still reflects my personal preferences (as all lists worth a damn do).
So without further ado, here are my top ten games of 2010:
Pokemon SoulSilver (DS): I was a little late getting into the whole Pokemon thing. Actually, I was very late. The first Pokemon title I played was Pearl, and even then, I wasn’t really all that enthralled. I guess there must be something to all the hype behind the original Gold and Silver as being among the best titles in the series, though, because I couldn’t put down SoulSilver. If all you want to do is collect adorable little creatures and have them do your bidding, then that’s all you need to do (and yes, my team was so cute it hurt. That’s a large part of how I chose them, which I suppose says something about my battle prowess). But there’s a surprisingly deep RPG beneath the precious upper crust for those who enjoy that sort of thing, as well. It’s a formula that works.
Limbo (XBLA): I have a distressing habit of downloading games that I think sound neat from both Live and Playstation Network and then letting them sit on my hard drive forever because I just forget they’re there. Limbo had me hooked from the time I played the demo, though, so the five-ish hours I spent playing it were not only something I enjoyed, but that I looked forward to. It’s not a perfect game by any stretch (some of those gravity puzzles broke it a bit in places for me), but the puzzles mixed with the perfect mind-fuck of an atmosphere really struck a chord with me.
Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii): I was afraid that this was going to be, essentially, an expansion pack for the first Galaxy, and it sort of was. Turns out I didn’t really have a problem with that. Galaxy 2 is more of what made me love Galaxy 1; it’s just as imaginative and fun as it was before but with enough new ideas to keep things interesting and fresh. Also: Yoshi.
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable (PSP): “But Leah,” I hear you whining, “Persona 3 came out in 2007! How can it be one of your games of 2010?” To you I say, “Shut your face! It’s my goddamn list!” Then I remember that some people might not find my belligerence as endearing as I think it is and I explain my actual reasoning. Persona 3 Portable is not the same game as Persona 3. Yes, the characters are mostly the same, as is the main story. So many changes were made, though, that it deserves to be considered a title on its own. The battle system (flawed to begin with) has undergone a complete switch, and a whole new main character option has been added, along with additional tweaks that keep the spirit of Persona 3 alive while transplanting it into a shiny new cybernetic body. I was enthralled for another 70-plus-hour stretch, and that’s saying something.
Alan Wake (360): I know a lot of people were disappointed by Alan Wake; some of you are probably questioning my sanity right about now. I think the reason I was so into it, despite some admittedly large problems, was that it very firmly poked my Silent Hill nerve center. Being afraid of the dark, in both Silent Hill and Bright Falls, is not only understandable, it’s logical. If you don’t have a healthy respect for the things living in the shadows, your face is probably going to end up as their dinner. Alan Wake got the ambiance just right, sort of like Limbo did for me. I’ve heard it described time and again as “like playing a Stephen King novel,” and I think that’s just about the perfect description. Is it great art? Probably not. Is it enjoyably spooky, even if not too believable? For sure.
Kirby’s Epic Yarn (Wii): I don’t even remember when the last time was that I played a Kirby game before this one, but there was something about it that made me obsess over picking up every last fabric and completing every last challenge until I came out grasping the elusive 100 percent completion. Kirby’s just so cute that I didn’t want to disappoint him! Even though the game isn’t exactly difficult, it’s extremely well presented, lending credence to the opinion that Nintendo is really the only developer that knows how to put out games for its own platform. Where my other Wii pick on this list didn’t necessarily display a whole lot of originality, Kirby’s Epic Yarn does. Where else have you seen a game composed entirely of craft items? This one does, and it does it well. Far from taking the excuse of being a “kiddy” game to skimp on graphics, it looks gorgeous and plays smoothly. I can’t wait to see what happens next with that little pink puffball.
Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep (PSP): I’ve been a fan of the Kingdom Hearts series since the first game launched in 2002. I have vivid memories of hearing about the concept beforehand and thinking it was stupid, but then I actually played it, and I’ve been hooked ever since. The portable installments, though, have always been — well, not exactly bad, but definitely secondary. Birth By Sleep was the first time I’ve ever felt could stand up to the console entries. The gameplay is solid, the graphics are gorgeous (with, unfortunately, the attendant load times you might expect from something as visually intense as a Square game tends to be), and, most significantly to me, the story is impressively linked with the other titles in the series. I don’t know that I’d necessarily recommend Birth By Sleep if you haven’t at least played the main Kingdom Hearts titles, actually; the game itself would still be fun, but the way that Square worked with the mythos was really what got to me. It actually made me want to replay the other games in the series just so that I could recapture those “Oh yeah!” moments. I haven’t yet, but I’m definitely thinking about it.
Mass Effect 2 (360): I’ve always been more a fan of the Japanese style of RPGs than the Western style, but I will always make an exception for BioWare. Mass Effect is another one of those series that, much to the horror of many of my compatriots, I came to relatively late in the game, so to speak. I didn’t play the first until very close to the release of the second, but due to the masterful continuity you experience if you import a Shepard into the second game, I’m really glad I didn’t try to skip straight to 2, even though I know such things are possible. I really found it rewarding to get into my character’s head, though, and I tried my best to keep her acting as the personality I chose for her would dictate. I think this is why I don’t play too many open-ended RPGs, actually — they’re emotionally draining. The reward is huge, but so is the investment That may sound a little backwards, but I think the mere fact that I, along with so many others, can get so very absorbed in a game like this speaks incredibly highly of its quality. I can’t wait to take Kate Shepard out into the galaxy again when Mass Effect 3 drops.
Halo: Reach (360): I know, right!? I was surprised too. Two years ago, I never would have thought that a Halo game — or any shooter, really — would make it anywhere near a top ten list of mine, but Reach was something of a revelation for me. I don’t know too many people who play shooters for the story, but I do. I’m generally too much of a wuss to play online, unless it’s cooperatively, or at least with friends I know will take pity on me and not snipe me too much while I’m turning circles in a c0rner or accidentally throwing grenades at my own teammates. Not only did I love Reach’s story, it was the first shooter into which I really put any competitive multiplayer time, and I had a lot of fun doing it. I think that alone earns it a spot here; any game that I enjoy enough to allow myself to be kicked out of my RPG comfort zone has got to be good. I trash-talked 12-year-olds! And it was awesome!
Heavy Rain (PS3): I was totally unprepared for the emotional response Heavy Rain got from me. Yes, it had some very prominent flaws, but the fact that it could push through those and honestly make me empathize with the characters — the fact that I felt responsible for what was happening and that I cared enough to not want anything to go wrong — is what makes it my favorite game of 2010. I cringed with each button press when I had to crawl through a tunnel of broken glass, to say nothing of cutting off my own finger, which was a scene that got to me far more than anything Call of Duty might use to shock its audience. Does this mean that I value story more than gameplay? I’ve thought about it a lot, and I’m still not sure. All I know is that for every time I was exasperated by “pressing X to Jason,” I was spellbound by escaping from a basement death-trap. The good moments of Heavy Rain won out for me.
Guess we’ll see how things fall out this year. I can’t wait!
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